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Guide to working overseas as an expatriate
What you need to know about working overseas.
Many Americans dream of working overseas; whether that involves posting up on a beach to work remotely or pursuing a career in a foreign country, working as an expat can be quite lucrative while providing an opportunity to travel abroad and visit new locations. However, working and living in a different country is no piece of cake..
To help aspiring expats get acquainted with the reality of working and living abroad, this overview covers everything you need to know about working overseas.
First off, what is an expat?
An expatriate — or expat — is someone who lives in a different country from where they were born and raised. In general, expatriates are considered to be people who reside in a foreign country temporarily, with the ultimate intention of returning home at some point in the future.
Before you go
The process involves significant personal and financial commitments, so the last thing you want is to regret your decision after you’ve got your immunizations, secured a visa and signed a lease. If you’ve made it this far, it’s now time to decide where to crack open the next chapter of your life.
It’s essential to do your research to determine where you want to go, where you are going to work, what you need, how to budget, and so much more.
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How to get a job overseas
Whether you are looking to study abroad, relocate for a full-time position, or seek a fresh start at a new place of employment, finding work overseas can be overwhelming. There are a variety of ways you can find jobs overseas and an abundance of resources online to help you.
Here are some of the different routes to becoming an expat.
Most four year schools have exchange programs set up with foreign universities, allowing students to spend a semester or more abroad. These programs allow students to experience the education systems of various countries around the world, an appealing trait to potential employers once you graduate.
Speak with your school’s international center, as they can walk you through the entire process from obtaining a visa to booking flights.
If you are not currently enrolled in school, you may want to consider applying to universities abroad. This can be a bit trickier than exchange programs, but allows for more freedom and flexibility.
If you are looking to pursue a career in a new destination, there are a few ways you can go about it:
- Relocating. If you work for an international organization, you might consider speaking with your employer regarding a transfer to a foreign office.
- Secure a job before you go. you should start looking through job websites to find a relevant position for when you arrive. Check out our list of expat job resources below. Teaching english abroad is a fulfilling way to experience the world.
- Apply for jobs when you arrive. If you’re more of a last minute person, or have the budget to support yourself once you arrive, you may want to apply in person or through local job websites once you get there.
- Start your own business. If you’re a self-starter or entrepreneur, you may want to consider starting your own business either before or after you leave. Consider the potential benefits, drawbacks and entrepreneurial landscape of each destination before you make a final decision.
Government jobs are a great, stable way to travel the world and explore new places while you work. Whether you decide to seek out a position with your domestic government or hope to find your place in a foreign government, there are a variety of jobs all over the world. Many government jobs are available through the military, navy, diplomatic corps or even as a private contractor. There are even programs created to benefit expats, such as the Overseas Housing Allowance.
Here are a few job websites for expats to help you with your search for employment abroad:
Depending on where you plan on working, the culture and climate may be completely different than what you are accustomed to. In some cases, it may be necessary to learn a new language or adjust your wardrobe to suit your destination. Consider the differences in culture and climate to determine whether or not the destination will be a good fit for you.
America is one of the few countries that vigorously pursues taxes worldwide – so don’t expect to avoid a U.S. tax debt by moving abroad. You should file a return with the U.S. every year, regardless of whether you earned income or not. You are not legally required to do so if you don’t owe U.S. taxes, but it’s an important preventative measure.
If there is a dispute over back taxes, you start running the clock on the Statute of Limitations if you file. If you decide not to, the IRS can conduct a personal audit at any time and you’ll be liable if they decide against you.
For other relevant information, the IRS provides a tax guide for citizens living abroad, which can be found here.
Similar to your move abroad, you should also prepare in advance for your move back home. While you will likely have familiarity with your home country and a network of friends and family, there are still some key areas to look out for:
- Emotional. Returning to your home country after months or years in a completely different environment can be quite the shock.
- Practical. Issues such as shipping companies, pet relocation, schooling, housing, employment, and everything else will require research and planning.
- Financial. If all ties with the home country have previously been severed, it can be difficult to set up any type of credit or mortgage once you return. If you have been using an international bank like HSBC, it can help to transfer your account back to the U.S, as this can help your credit rating.
How to budget for living abroad
It’s important to work out a budget to determine how you are going to afford your new lifestyle. Look around at rentals or real estate listings in the area to get an idea of your monthly expenses. Additionally, you should consider the cost of groceries, healthcare, leisure activities, and any other expenses you currently spend on.
There are a few costs that are not necessarily mandatory, but we highly recommend them when budgeting for your new venture.
- Expat insurance. An absolute essential for all expats, this should be one of your top considerations when moving overseas. Most countries do not offer expatiates free healthcare, even in emergencies, making it even more important.
- Health insurance. The majority of expats have private health insurance, but in the event that it is not offered as part of your expat contract, there are many companies available that specialize in this type of insurance.
- Travel costs. If you plan on seeing your family or friends during your time away from home, make sure to budget for travel costs. Whether they’re coming to check out your new stomping grounds or you’re making the trip home, flights aren’t free and neither are accommodations.
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